Monday, July 19, 2021

Jean Echlin RN: We honour her life. We mourn her death.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition


We celebrate the life and mourn the death of Jean Echlin RN MScN, was a past President and founding Vice President of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

Jean is a past director of the Hospice of Windsor and was awarded the Dorothy Ley award, in 2005, for excellence in palliative care in Ontario

Jean was an extraordinary woman who I first met through Mark Pickup. Mark is a disability writer and activist who told me, many years ago, that Jean Echlin was the most compassionate woman. After meeting Jean, I had to agree, Jean was the most compassionate and caring woman I have ever known.

When I started to found the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC), I was looking for a few people who would be committed to the cause, who had incredible experience and would be willing to work together. I found those qualities in Dr Barrie deVeber as the founding EPC President and Jean Echin as VP.

Jean was more than just a partner in the cause, she was a speaker, a writer, a leader and a truly compassionate and caring woman. She actually made me feel like I was her son.

Jean believed in caring for people and never killing.

In October 2010, Jean Echlin and Joanne St. Pierre wrote the booklet - Palliative Care Not Euthanasia, as a submission to the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care, an all party committee formed in response to the defeat of euthanasia Bill C-384 by a vote of 228 to 59.

EPC will send you a copy of the booklet Palliative Cre Not Euthanaisa when you make a donation in memory of Jean Echlin (Donation Link).

Jean understood the that the legalization of euthanasia would affect medical professionals. She wrote in October 2008 the following:
Professional health care relationships with doctors, nurses, patients and family members float on a sea of trust. Asking professional health care providers to kill, or give the means to kill, will destroy this trust relationship. I emphatically believe that we have no right to ask our professional care givers to provide us with death. Neither should our health care providers ever feel obligated to comply with this narcissistic request.
In November 2011, Jean wrote about her concerns related to the Carter court case in BC that led to the legalization of euthanasia in Canada. Jean wrote:
With the advent of Carter versus the Attorney General of Canada, Canada's laws prohibiting euthanasia and assisted suicide are being challenged again. This despite the fact that our federal Parliament vetoed Bill C-384 that sought to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia by an overwhelming vote of 228 to 59 in 2010.

If the pro-killing side gets its way, five people on the Supreme Court can overrule Parliament and demand change in the Criminal Code that forbids euthanasia and assisted suicide. What would this scenario do to our democratic process and the rights of a majority of Canadians?

Who would be at risk? You are. So is everyone in this country.
In March 2013, Jean responded to a story of an elderly woman who died by suicide and was being lauded as courageous. Jean wrote:
In February of this year, a national paper printed an extraordinary posthumous letter from a 91 year old woman who died by suicide because she was tired of living. She wanted to end her life with dignity. Though most of the (published) responses thought she was courageous, I disagree. I believe there is more to the issue when anyone contemplates suicide.

Ultimately suicide in the elderly is a failure. We must ask ourselves, is it because pain and suffering were not addressed? Did individuals thinking of suicide, and their families, not have access to help and support? Is it because of societal ambivalence about mental health issues or stigma about the elderly? Is it due to encouragement and even pressure by pro-suicide groups like Dying with Dignity? What is the future of this legacy?

Aging brings challenges. These may include loss of independence, chronic discomfort/ pain, even chronic illness. Do these problems mean our lives are no longer of value?

As someone advanced in years living with chronic pain, and who has been with hundreds of people at the end of their lives, I know that aging is a daily struggle with its own share of joy and hope. I believe advancing in years does not diminish the value of our contributions.
In April 2016, in response to the Bill C-14, the bill that legalized euthanasia in Canada, Jean wrote to the Minister of Justice stating:
How dare we ask our doctors and nurses to put patients to death when a safer option exists. Healthcare providers must never assume the role of killers or refer to another who will provide the "death management." Trust and legal issues will make more problems for our sick and elderly. 
EPC will send you a copy of the booklet Palliative Care Not Euthanasia when you make a donation in memory of Jean Echlin (Donation Link).

Jean Echlin R.N., MScN. was a pioneer in Hospice Palliative Care. In 2005, the Ontario Palliative Care Association (OPCA) recognized her 26 year contribution to hospice palliative care by selecting her for the prestigious "Dorothy Ley Award of Excellence" for her part in "fostering the true spirit of Palliative Care in Ontario." Echlin formerly served on faculty, University of Windsor’s Faculty of Nursing, and was director of nursing at Windsor Regional Hospital’s Metropolitan Campus. As coordinator and clinical nurse specialist, then Executive Director, Jean was instrumental in the development of the Hospice of Windsor & Essex County Inc. which is recognized as exemplary in Canada. In 1988, Jean moved to London, Ontario and established the Palliative Care Consultation Team in the heart of tertiary care at University Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre. She was also recognized as a distinguished public speaker, educator and free-lance writer. Jean was a nurse consultant; former President and founding VP of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition; served on the Advisory Council of the deVeber Institute of Bioethics and Social Research; is a member of the Honour Society of Nursing and member Emeritus of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario.

4 comments:

Andrew Grant said...

A very great compassionate person who has strived to resist euthanasia- right words too difficult to put together for someone so very special.RIP.
This is from the UK from a former Governor of St.Richard’s Hospice,Worcester -now a patron.
The fight has to go on and prey laws will be reversed in countries allowing euthanasia.
Andrew Grant - Worcester UK.

Unknown said...

What an extraordinary Lady and fierce fighter for those most vulnerable. I had an honor to meet Mrs.Echlin in spring 2016 during the first campaign to stop the abominable Euthanasia Bill being ratified in Parialment Hill. We did not succeed, but with her help we made our voices loud and clear. Rest in Peace Dear Jean and may God bless You forever - Maria Wojewnik with Family

Unknown said...

I knew Jean during my working days at Metropolitan Hospital (Windsor Regional) She was a beautiful lady both inside and out. I did not know that she went to the hospice, a most fitting position for her.

God bless you, Jean.

Maureen said...

What an inspiration!!!! We certainly need many more compassionate souls just like Jean...May she rest in peace and be justly rewarded for her work here on earth--